South Sudan’s Militias

South Sudan’s Militias

PUBLICATION: Enough Project

DATE: 2011.03.04


South Sudan’s remarkably peaceful referendum momentarily assuaged concerns about violence in the region, but outbreaks of intense fighting in Jonglei on February 9 and 10 that left hundreds dead, and in the flashpoint town of Malakal on February 4, provide stark reminders of the tensions that remain. This report, based on extensive interviews conducted in Upper Nile state in January and February 2011, provides an overview of the state of play among South Sudan’s militias, which continue to be a critical challenge to securing a peaceful separation between North and South Sudan, and to the formation of a stable new state.

One reason why the referendum took place relatively peacefully in flashpoint regions was the concerted effort on the part of the South Sudanese government to reconcile with breakaway militia leaders beforehand. The olive branch that was offered appeared to be accepted by a number of key militia leaders. But just weeks after the announcement of the South’s overwhelming preference for secession, intense fighting broke out once more, amid allegations of support from Khartoum for the dissidents.

Significant hurdles remain before peace in South Sudan can be assured for the long-term. Any future peace agreements between the South Sudanese government and dissident elements will face serious challenges in their implementation and remain vulnerable to security threats from spoilers—both from Khartoum and from splintering within the militias themselves. Operationally, integrating militia members into the SPLA is complex and will come at a long-term cost for a government that must eventually reduce the size of its military and disarm its civilian population…